This weekend in South Bend we finally open our official season with James Beckel’s Toccata for Orchestra, the Korngold Violin Concerto, and Brahms Symphony No. 1. And I feel pretty good about this program.
Brahms 1 remains one of my very favorite orchestral works. It has everything – fatefully tolling tympani, gorgeous oboe, horn, and violin solos, a deeply joyful major key string chorale melody, and a rock solid ending that leaves no doubt about when the audience should applaud. I played this piece for the first time in Youth Orchestra in high school, and I never get tired of it.
It’s one of those warhorses that is truly overplayed, though. I have only been with South Bend for 5 years, and I know I have performed it here at least once before. There is so much great repertoire out there, and I am hard-pressed to explain why we would repeat a piece this soon. Do people really want to hear the same pieces over and over again? Across America, orchestras are struggling to maintain their aging audiences and reach out to younger people, who rightly see the symphony as a museum piece. Why not perform newer works, contribute to the development of today’s composers, and give support to local musicians?
Fortunately, in this case our music director has in fact done this. The Toccata for Orchestra is a relatively new, relatively local work, composed in 2007 by James Beckel, Jr, a trombonist and composer from Indianapolis. It is lively, fun, and should be an enjoyable treat even for the Brahms lovers. The Korngold Violin Concerto is beautiful and romantic, but has some edgy moments, and is certainly not nearly so commonly played as many other concerti. I’ve never done it before, myself, and am looking forward to it quite a lot.
Hopefully there is something for everyone on this concert – why not come and check us out if you live in the area?